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Is the Problem of Evil a good argument against God ?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/25/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 409 times Debate No: 81528
Debate Rounds (5)
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This is a debate challenge to ethang5 about the problem of evil. In the thread 'The suffering of ants' ( he qualified it as a bad argument and has not disagreed to debate it in a formal debate.

The problem of evil is an argument against a particular kind of god. Since ethang5 disbelieves God is omnibenevolent, we shall define him as being just benevolent for this debate.

God is the omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent creator of the universe with an interest in human affairs and who inspired the Bible.

Benevolent means morally good.

Pro will argue against the existence of God using the evidential problem of evil and con will attempt to refute that argument.
In his first reply, pro will limit himself to accepting the debate.

This debate is for ethang5 only. Anyone else accepting loses by default.

May the truth prevail.


First off, you can challenge a specific user, however you made this debate public, and so I accepted the challenge. Next time challenge the user you want to challenge.

Moving on to the theory of theodicy.
It is a logical conclusion to come to, to think that if god is good, then why does evil exist. But when the consequences are considered, we must realize that often evil things result in positive impacts. Take the example of a forrest fire. When a forrest fire takes place, it is immediately devastating. Animals are forced to flee, the area is ravaged, it becomes an uninhabitable area. However after the fire ends, the land is renewed. The old dead trees were incinerated, and the brush and kindling on the forrest floor has been removed, which makes room for new plants and trees to rise out of the ashes.
Debate Round No. 1


Ethang5 has declined this debate, so I will debate BrendanD19 in stead.

Here is my PoE argument :

P1 There is a lot of evil in the world.
P2 God as defined is able and willing to significantly reduce the amount of evil.
P3 There is no conclusive evidence God significantly reduces the amount of evil.
C Therefore probably God does not exist.

Notice that the above argument is inductive as it is based on empirical evidence.

Objection to PoE :

BrendanD19 argues that not everything that is bad in the short term is bad in the long run. For example, a forest fire is damaging, but provides nature with the opportunity to restore land.

My objections to this counterargument :

Wildfires :

1) Wildfires are undeniably bad in the short term. It kills many life forms and some of them suffer because of it. A benevolent creator would not tolerate that without sufficient compensation.

2) If all goes well, the land is merely restored to its original form. You just end up where you started. Where is the improvement in the long run ?
A counterargument to this may be that some biotopes depend on fire and that wildfires help preserve them. That is the case because nature has adapted to the existence of wildfires up to the point of some species having grown dependent upon it. However, if there are no wildfires, no such dependence exists. There are wet biotopes that work well without wildfires.

3) Wildfires are generally damaging to humans. See for example "California wildfires kill one person, destroy more homes
" :

4) Wildfires aren't always good in the long run. They can have negative consequences for biotopes. Ash forms fertile soil, but it can be removed by wind (especially in the smoke) or rain (especially on slopes), leaving the land infertile. In addition, hot fires can damage the top soil.[1] The biotope may never recover to its original form.[2]


Other examples of evil without apparent compensation :

1) Scrotal Lymphedema is a condition caused by blockages in lymphatic vessels.[3] Here are some images of it : It is not the sort of disease you want to be seen with at the swimming pool.

2) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a brain disease that causes muscle weakening, eventually leading to death through suffocation. It is incurable and life expectancy from the onset is three to four years.[4]
Some theists say God is omnipresent. Imagine a human Alice sitting next to Bob who is suffocating, watching him. Alice can easily save Bob, but does nothing and he dies. Does that prove Alice is malevolent ? No, but in the absence of proper justification for her behaviour, it is evidence that she is.

3) The tragedy of the sunfish :
How does one best preserve food ? The oldest effective way used by humans, before freezing or brine is to keep the food alive, for example as cattle. Nature has discovered this method of preservation as well and it is usually an unpleasant experience for the food if it is an animal. An example : Sea lions hunt sunfish and bite of their fins so they can't flee. Sometimes they play with them and then abandon them to drop to the sea floor, still alive.[5]

4) The case of David Reimer :
In the 'nature versus nurture debate' this case supports the former. Born in 1965, due to an accident during an operation as a baby he lost his penis. He was then raised as a girl (named Brenda), hoping that would actually make him a girl. It failed miserably and he committed suicide in 2004.[6]

I don't think anyone doubts many more examples can be found. The simplest explanation for God being totally absent in these cases of evil is that he does not exist or does not have the attributes ascribed to him.


I'll give one comment on free will, in case my opponent brings it up.

The free will arguments of theists tend to make tacit, unevidenced assumptions (one being that free will is valuable). However, in the absence of a proper definition of free will, since it is an ambiguous concept (some even claim it doesn't exist), such assumptions are unjustified and unverifiable. Therefore, if my opponent fails to provide a clear definition for free will, I propose the following definition :

Free will is the impression agents have to freely choose their thoughts.


That's it for now. I'll await my opponent's counter-arguments before I address them.

[1] "Intense wildfire alters forest soil" :

[2] "Fires' Long-Term Impact On Environment" :

[3] "Scrotal lymphedema" :

[4] "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis" :

[5] "The Ocean Sunfish" : tab Parasites & Predators

[6] "The tragic twin boy who was brought up as a girl after horrific hospital blunder" :


First I will respond to my original example of a forrest fire.
The pro has cited the example of the Tassajara Fire that occurred in September, a relatively small fire, the long term impact of which will still do not know as it happened little over a month ago. Therefore the long term impacts will not be known for some time.
A great example of forrest fire is the massive 1988 Yellowstone fires. While the fires were extremely devastating initially, causing a decline in air quality, the destruction of massive swaths of the park and damage that can be see too this day. However in the long run, we have seen that the overall number of fires has declined and their intensity has lessened, the biodiversity has increased, and while it can't be restored to its natural state, it is in a better state than it was before. Perhaps most importantly, it taught us vital lessons about how to deal with fires in the future. Previously we had just suppressed all wild fire, now we control them and perform controlled burns regularly. This is one of the greatest things we gain from the bad things in our world. We learn vital lessons about what to do in the future.

As to the other examples:

1) There are very few cases of Scrotal Lymphedema in the world, and those cases do provide opportunities to learn more and develop potential treatments. This advances scientific knowledge and medicine for future generations

2) ALS is a terrible disease that is currently untreatable, however just like the Scrotal Lymphedema it provides opportunities to learn more about human life and the human body as well as the opportunities to develop cure for the disease. This provides opportunities for unique minds to study and a cause for many to fight for.

3) I frankly do not understand this argument and the connection to the idea of evil. All that has been described here is the behavior of animals and humans. Humans need to preserve food, and sea lions do this also, they also find enjoyment and sustenance from the sunfish. This is a good thing as it maintains the balance of life in the world.

4) The David Reimer case was terrifying, but for David himself, he said it was a great struggle but he came out victorious and stronger. His suicide was, according to his mother, the result of a terminated job, a marriage ending and his brothers death all occurring around the same time.

Additionally If God were not the distant father he is, he would intervene in every event. There is no rose without a thorn, and if God were to intervene in every single event of evil, the world could simply not continue, it could not balance itself.
As Newton said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. God allows those things to happen because they must happen in order for things in this world to happen.

And while I was not actually planning on mentioning Free Will, as I was assuming that we would just accept that as inherent. I however do approve of that definition and all mention of that phrase shall use that definition.
Debate Round No. 2


I) General remarks :

A) When proposed examples of evil, attention is often drawn to the benefits of that evil. One benefit being that instances of evil help us learn how to combat such evil, which is good. Formalized, the argument goes as follows :

P1 Phenomenon X is evil.
P2 Occurrences of X help us learn to combat X.
P3 Learning how to combat evil is good.
P3 Therefore, learning to combat X is good.
C Therefore phenomenon X is good.

The above argument is invalid. If X were good we wouldn't be combating it. Learning to combat X would only reduce the number of occurrences of X in the future. The best possible result that could be hoped for is that X would be eliminated completely. Then we would be exactly where we would be if there was never any X in the first place.
In addition, in the mean time we have to suffer X, spend resources dealing with X and learn how to combat X.

B) Apologists often point to benefits of evil to make it seem that a proposed evil phenomenon X is actually good. However, that X has benefits doesn't make it good as in the given examples the evil outweighs the good (otherwise it would be a bad example). Gassing Jews has advantages (e.g. it reduces the overpopulation problem and helps us learn how to avoid genocides in the future). Raping children for fun also has its perks (e.g. allowing the rapist to enjoy himself and express his free will).

It is usually clear that in the given examples the evil of X outweighs the good, but when that conclusion would make God look bad, God's fans suddenly don't find it clear anymore. One would almost think they are biased.

It is often hard to prove that the evil of X outweighs the good if you can't rely on common sense. A good indicator is however the attitude of modern civilized societies, because such attitude is usually decided by experts, unless the evil is so obvious no expert opinions are required. Therefore, if modern civilized societies combat it, it is probably bad or evil.

An example would be wildfires. Modern civilized societies combat some wildfires, therefore some wildfires are probably bad. It would be up to the theist apologist to demonstrate that they are wrong, which is possible, but unlikely.

II) Wildfires :

1) Tassajara Fire
My argument was that wildfires are usually bad for humans. BrendanD19 objects that the long term effects of the example I gave are not yet known.

The problem of wildfires for humans is the destruction of property and people. Since the authorities try to preserve property and people, they clearly think it is overall bad. Unless BrendanD19 can provide good reason to think that in the long run the destruction of property and people is not bad, it still stands as a bad aspect of some wildfires.

2) 1988 Yellowstone fires
This is a red herring. No one denies that if one places no importance on the lives and suffering of individual animals, some wildfires are beneficial in the long run.

BrendanD19 makes a suspicious claim about biodiversity : that it has increased, but since he did not support his claim, I won't verify it. Since the rise of man and at increased rate since the industrial revolution, biodiversity is on the decline. Speciation occurs at a very slow rate (one or two species a year on average I recall hearing). If any new species appear in a an area after a wildfire these are most likely invasive species, who usually thrive at the expense of endemic ones.

In conclusion : the only counter-argument to the benefit of wildfires actually tried to challenge is the one about damage to humans, which I answered. All my other arguments stand. I addition, that something that seems bad at first sight isn't always bad, does not prevent other things that look bad from being really bad.

III) Other examples :

1) Scrotal lymphedema
That there are few cases of this disease is irrelevant for two reasons :
a) It shouldn't hinder God in doing anything to solve any given case. If a benevolent person sees someone drowning that they can save, they won't reason : "It is only one person drowning, so it is unimportant." and walk away.
b) There are plenty of other diseases, that all added up amount to a very large number of patients. See for example
They seem to have missed neurofibromatosis. See here the case of Huang Chuncai, also known as elephant man :

I have already challenged the idea that the benefits of the disease would make it overall not evil anymore in my general remarks.

2) ALS
I addressed that counter-argument in my general remarks.
"This provides opportunities for unique minds to study and a cause for many to fight for." says BrendanD19.
I wonder whether the reader would like one of his/her close family members or friends to get ALS to give unique minds something to study and a cause to fight for.

3) The tragedy of the sunfish
BrendanD19 claim he doesn't understand how what happens to the sunfish is evil. It is a case of excessive suffering. They aren't just being killed and eaten. They are being preserved alive, mutilated and conscious. They aren't even always eaten. The sea lions sometimes kill more than they can eat, like a fox in a chicken run tends to kill more than he can eat.
As for the seals enjoying themselves, they are sometimes on the receiving end of such play : They are probably not enjoying it that much then.

Is it really necessary for the ecosystem to be that way ? I see no reason for that, but the ecosystem was 'designed' by something oblivious to suffering : evolution by natural selection. Surely an omniscient, omnipotent being could do better.

4) The Case of David Reimer
BrendanD19 insinuates that David's suicide was for other reasons than his gender problems. So what ? If he committed suicide because he was fired, his marriage failed and his brother died, does that mean he had good reason to happy or that there is not evil here ? I think not. It seems rather that fate (or was it God ?) had a grudge against him. In addition, it is not unlikely the first two events are related to his gender issues.

BrendanD19 also suggests that David was eventually doing well. Although neither of the referenced articles mentions David saying he felt stronger and victorious, it is not unlikely that he said that. He probably mentioned how miserable he had been as well.
The articles also indicate David's experience was far from pleasant.

No parent who means well for their children would let them go through what David has gone through. They would try hard to prevent it. God did nothing. He clearly was not David's well-meaning father.

IV) Concluding argument :

BrendanD19 complains that if God were to intervene at every problem, the world would not continue. It is clear that a world without any instances of evil, either by design, by intervention or by a combination, would be a completely different world. Perhaps such a world would even be impossible. However, that is by no means obvious. God is after all omnipotent and omniscient. The main problem would likely be that would be a world he does not like and that seems to be what really matters to him.

Moreover, this argument is an appeal to extremes fallacy. It assumes that in this world God must either do nothing to prevent evil (which seems to be the case), or prevent all instances of evil. However, if preventing all evil is indeed unfeasible, God could still significantly reduce evil, which is what a benevolent god would do. Curing David for example would not have prevented the world to continue or destroyed its balance.


While I was enjoying this debate thoroughly, I sadly am unable to continue due to scheduling conflicts.
I concede all arguments to the Pro.
Debate Round No. 3



I add here a few comments that I had to remove from my previous reply due to lack of space.

In General remarks :
B) :
This argument against the existence of evil can also be parodied against the existence of good. Theist apologists usually don't don't do that, but if they were presenting good in the world as evidence for God's benevolence, one could point to the bad aspects of these examples.

4) The Case of David Reimer :
I said : "The articles also indicate David's experience was far from pleasant."
For example :
"His mother, Janet Reimer, said she believed that her son would still be alive had it not been for the devastating experiment, which led to much emotional hardship."
"[about suicide causes] Surprisingly little emphasis was given to the extraordinary circumstances of his upbringing. This was unfortunate because to understand David's suicide, you first need to know his anguished history,"

IV)Concluding argument :

I said : "Curing David for example would not have prevented the world to continue or destroyed its balance."
And if God was really worried that people might not learn that nature trumps nurture, he could have made sure that the scientific community learned the truth about David's case sooner. Until 1997 the scientific community believed the treatment to be successful and as a consequences many children were treated similarly :


BrendanD19 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


To conclude :

BrendanD19 argued against the existence of evil with two arguments :

1) Some instances of apparent evil are only bad in the short term. He gave wildfires as an example.

2) Some instances of apparent evil have good associated with them. He challenged the examples I gave.

I have successfully challenged both these objections to the problem of evil. Thus BrendanD19 gave no good reason to doubt the existence of evil.

A line of argumentation sometimes used by Christian apologists is the attempt to justify evil or excuse God from it. BrendanD19 did not do this. So we have seen presented no mechanism or principle that could make evil compatible with the existence of God as defined.

Hence, the argument stands.


BrendanD19 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by BrendanD19 12 months ago
Or we can just keep going with this debate and you can try against you're friend some other time
Posted by Amoranemix 12 months ago
Correction : ... to who can accept while the debate challenge remains public.

I am unfamilar with formal debates, but I think this can be amended. At worst it could probably be agreed a draw. Let's wait for experienced formal debaters to give some advice.
Posted by BrendanD19 12 months ago
Sorry, but whats done is done
Posted by Amoranemix 12 months ago
@ Brendan

I object to your acceptance of this debate.

First, last time I issued a debate challenge to a specific user relying on the system, that challenge was hidden.

Second, it is customary in debate challenges to issue limitations to who can accept while the debate remains public.

Third, you did not respect the limitation that in your first reply you were only to accept the debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Stefanwaal 11 months ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Since con forfeited pro automatically wins the arguments point.